Schuldenerlasse funktio­nieren

Michael Pettis ist ein ausgesprochener China-Kenner. Immer wieder äußert er sich auch intelligent zu den Problemen des Euro und vor allem zur Nutzenverteilung der Gemeinschaftswährung.

Über-Ersparnis und Über-Exporte als Folge un­glei­cher Einkommens­ver­teilung?

Weshalb Europa die Schulden – endlich! – restrukturieren muss

Zur Mechanik von Ersparnis und Handelsüberschüssen

Heute erklärt er, warum ein Schuldenerlass der beste Weg ist, Wirtschaftswachstum zu fördern und dass es besser ist, als die Schuldner zu zwingen, Handelsüberschüsse zu erzielen, um die Schulden abzubauen. Dies ist nicht nur relevant für das Thema der internationalen Schuldenerlasse, sondern auch für die Eurozone. Wenn wir eine Lösung für die hohen Schulden finden, hilft auch uns das. Noch besser wäre natürlich, wenn wir auch direkt davon profitierten.

  • “It is easy to assume that sovereign debt forgiveness involves a collective transfer of wealth from the creditor country to the debt-owing country, but this is only true under specific—and unrealistic—conditions. In today’s environment, sovereign debt forgiveness mainly represents a transfer within the creditor country. It benefits farmers and manufacturers in the creditor country at the expense of the country’s nonproductive savers.” – bto: Das ist die Kernthese seines Buches und auch seiner Kritik an den bisherigen Ansätzen zur Lösung der Eurokrise.
  • “Most people would assume that debt forgiveness represents a transfer of wealth from the creditor nation (the United States, for example) to the obligor (or debt-owing) nation. But this is not necessarily the case. Under some conditions, the extent of such a transfer could be negligible or even nonexistent, even leading to an economic boost for creditor and obligor countries alike.” – bto: Es führt eben dazu, die Ersparnis-Überhänge, denen immer auch Schulden-Überhänge gegenüberstehen, zu bereinigen.
  • “Whether or not there is a transfer of wealth from the United States to the obligor nation really depends on economic conditions in the United States and political conditions in the obligor country. (…) This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any wealth transfer at all. It only means that the wealth transfer is not between countries but rather between groups within a country. In this particular case, debt forgiveness would be a transfer mainly from international investors to U.S. workers, farmers, and producers. The obligor country would benefit, of course, but not at the expense of the creditor country. Any benefits it receives would effectively be paid for by an increase in total global production. Not only would debt forgiveness leave the obligor nation better off and wealthier, in other words, but it can also leave the United States better off and wealthier.” – bto: Das setzt voraus, dass die Mehrnachfrage auch zu mehr Exporten der USA führt, was keineswegs ausgemacht ist. Doch wer stabilisiert die Gläubiger.
  • “The balance of payments must always balance, which means that every dollar that enters a country through its current or capital account must also leave the country through its current or capital account (and by “dollar” I just mean any foreign currency). (…) To simplify the explanation without distorting the real experience of either the creditor country or the obligor country, let us just assume that countries can only export or import goods and can only issue or repay bonds. If that is the case, the following equation must always hold true:

Total dollars received = Total dollars paid out, or
Exports + bond issuance = Imports + bond repayments

  • If we add together bond issuance and bond repayments and call the sum “net bond inflows,” we can rearrange the equation like this: Imports – exports = Net bond inflows”. – bto: Wir kennen das Spiegelbild, wir “kaufen” diese Bonds immer.
  • “So what happens when a developing country is forced to restructure its debt? Let’s say there is a developing country called Fredonia that is perceived to have excessively high debt. At some point, bond investors become unwilling to continue lending to Fredonia, in which case the country may have terrible difficulty repaying its outstanding debt. When that happens, the country gets together with its creditors to renegotiate—or restructure—debt-servicing repayments of interest and principal to make these payments more manageable.” – bto: Dies bedeutet, ein früherer Über-Konsum wird belohnt, die Verbindlichkeiten werden erlassen. Gewinner sind die Exportunternehmen, wenn andere als Sparer die Verluste tragen.
  • “(…) in many if not most cases, the problem is too much debt, generally because lenders and borrowers were overly optimistic, or indeed foolish, about the ways in which borrowing would raise debt-servicing capacity. Eventually, in these cases, after multiple restructurings fail to restart economic growth, the country must give up simply extending payments and must negotiate partial debt forgiveness with its creditors. (…) If the restructuring is done well, and a sufficient amount of debt is forgiven, Fredonia will finally be able to regain enough growth that it can fully service this smaller amount of debt.” – bto: soweit so einleuchtend.
  • “In finance theory, the ways in which the debt burden itself prevent the economy from growing fast enough to service that debt are known as financial distress costs. When financial distress costs are high enough, the borrower can never generate enough value to service the debt, and as the debt becomes harder to service, financial distress costs rise even further in a brutally self-reinforcing cycle. (…) By reducing a country’s total debt burden, creditors can help reduce financial distress costs by enough to reverse the cycle and allow countries like Fredonia to regain sufficient growth to repay the smaller, restructured debt burden.” – bto: So ist es auch bei der Unternehmensrestrukturierung.
  • “(…) it should be obvious that there is a direct relationship between the debt flows and the trade position of a country like Fredonia. As long as investors are lending more money than they are receiving in debt-servicing payments, Fredonia will import more than it will export—running a trade deficit. But once investors are no longer willing to lend to the country anymore, its exports must exceed its imports in any period by the amount of debt servicing. When that happens, Fredonia must run a trade surplus, but this isn’t what could be termed a good trade surplus, in which the country’s booming export sector causes its exports to rise much faster than its imports. It is a bad trade surplus caused by a collapse of imports, as Fredonian businesses and households become too poor or too worried to buy goods or invest in new productive capacity.” – bto: Das ist die Dynamik, die innerhalb der Eurozone gilt, wenn wir wollen, dass Länder Schulden abbauen. Folge: Es fehlt der Welt/der Eurozone an Nachfrage.
  • “By way of illustration, if U.S. investors lend Fredonia $100, and Fredonia uses the money to fund productive investment or social services, the country’s imports must rise by exactly $100, so U.S. exports must also rise by exactly $100. (…) This $100 rise in U.S. exports won’t necessarily be entirely in the form of U.S. exports to Fredonia, because Fredonia might increase its imports from a third country, which would in turn increase the third country’s imports from the United States. But in any case, one way or another the $100 will return to the United States in the form of higher total U.S. exports to the world.” – bto: Es ist eine Stärkung des Wachstumspotenzials.
  • “Suppose, however, that Fredonia is a corrupt country. Say that $40 of the $100 lent to Fredonia is used either to boost asset prices or is siphoned off by corruption. Even if that happens, the full $100 must still return to the United States, only now $60 of the original $100 would return in the form of higher imports, while the remaining $40 would return in the form of purchases of American assets (like stocks, bonds, or real estate). This difference will matter when calculating the cost of debt forgiveness.” – bto: Dazu muss das Land gar nicht “korrupt” sein, es kann auch einfach eine sehr ungleiche Einkommensverteilung haben.
  • “All the dollars Fredonia earns from exporting goods must be recycled back to the creditor nations. They can be recycled by paying for imported goods or by paying for debt-servicing costs. Debt forgiveness simply changes the way Fredonia’s export earnings are recycled. To the extent that fewer dollars are paid to investors, Fredonia has more dollars to recycle in other ways. There are two ways these dollars must be recycled. If Fredonia is a corrupt country, and the savings in debt-servicing costs are pocketed by local elites, part of the debt forgiveness will be recycled by the purchase of foreign assets by Fredonian elites. In that case, there will be a partial transfer of wealth from international creditors to corrupt members of the Fredonian elite. If Fredonia is not corrupt, and/or if the country’s debt-servicing savings are used to fund domestic investment or higher living standards, the dollars will be recycled in the form of imports. If that is the case, rather than return to the United States to increase the savings of creditors, the dollars would return to the United States to increase exports of agricultural and manufacturing goods.” bto: Die Schuldner können Geld dazu verwenden, um Schulden zu bedienen oder mehr zu konsumieren.
  • “Debt forgiveness, in other words, simply changes the direction and flow of dollar recycling. (…) That is why debt forgiveness should be seen as a transfer. To the extent that Fredonia is corrupt, it represents a partial transfer from foreign creditors to domestic elites. To the extent that it isn’t, that is to say, to the extent that the savings on debt forgiveness are used to fund domestic investment or higher living standards for Fredonians, those savings represent a transfer from creditors to farmers and producers in the creditor country who then export their production to Fredonia.” bto: wenn aber der Schuldner das Geld immer unproduktiv anlegt? Dann wird es sich dauerhaft wiederholen und die Gläubiger zahlen für die Exporte selber, wie wir das bekanntlich (gern) machen.
  • “We live in a world of weak demand, unemployed or underutilized labor and resources, and rising debt. That being the case, to the extent that the increase in exports boosts economic growth and employs underutilized labor, there is no diversion of production from consumers and businesses in creditor countries to consumers and businesses in Fredonia. The creditor countries in such cases will increase the total amount of goods and services they produce, or they will reduce the debt required to absorb the goods and services they produce, in which case there will be no net loss for the United States and a net gain for Fredonia. The income loss for American creditors, for example, will be matched by an income gain for American producers and farmers.” bto: In Deutschland gewinnen die Exportunternehmen und verlieren alle Sparer. Das ist eine Verteilungswirkung, die zumindest diskutiert werden muss.
  • “The point is that the simplest way to think about debt forgiveness—whether that means the forgiveness of foreign debt owed by developing countries or domestic debt (like student loans)—is to regard it as a transfer of wealth or income from savers to consumers.” – bto: Ja, es ist aber auch eine Verteilung innerhalb eines Landes und das muss adressiert werden.
  • “In a world of rapid growth, high investment needs that are constrained by low savings, and tight labor markets, such transfers would curb overall growth by reducing the amount of savings available for investment. But we no longer live in that world. We live in a world of low growth, low investment needs relative to abundant savings, and underutilized labor markets. High levels of income inequality ensure that desired investment is low (constrained by weak consumption growth) and ex-ante savings are high. That being the case, one of the most effective ways to encourage growth is to transfer wealth from those likely to save it to those likely to spend it. Debt forgiveness is simply one way—and an especially efficient way—to do just that.” – bto: Das stimmt allerdings auch innerhalb von Ländern. Nur muss man mit der Verteilungswirkung umgehen und darf die nicht ausblenden.
  • “We have known this to be true, by the way, for decades. In the 1930s, for example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government—pressed especially by Marriner Eccles, the brilliant chairman of the Federal Reserve that Roosevelt appointed in 1934—understood clearly the relationship between foreign debt repayment and American exports. (…) He said: It is elementary that debts between nations can ultimately be paid only in goods, gold, or services, or a combination of the three. (…) If this country is to receive payment of foreign debts, it must buy and consume more than it produces, thus creating a trade balance favorable to our debtors. (…) We must either choose between accepting sufficient foreign goods to pay the foreign debts owing to this country, or cancel the debts. This is not a moral problem, but a mathematical one. Foreign debtors, no doubt, would be delighted to pay their debts to this country if we would make it possible for them to do so by reducing our tariff and accepting the goods which they have to offer. No one would be as greatly benefited by the cancellation of these foreign debts owing to our Government as American agriculture and American labor. A comparatively small portion of our population would make up this loss to the Treasury through the payment of income and inheritance tax which would be made productive by the revival of business.” – bto: Da sind wir wieder bei der Verteilungsfrage, die durchaus relevant ist.
  • “After all, the consequent increase in demand after such debt forgiveness would cause (as it did then) an increase in American productive capacity. Rather than having the country attempt (and fail) to have wealth trickle down, wealth, in this case, would trickle up.” – bto: wie ich finde, ein überzeugendes Argument.

Und das gilt – denke ich – auch für die Eurozone. Das sind Gedanken, die wir beachten müssen, wenn wir uns mit der Sanierung der Eurozone befassen. „Why Foreign Debt Forgiveness Would Cost Americans Very Little“, 19. Oktober 2020